Oprah Winfrey stated, “Keeping a journal will change your life in ways that you’d never imagine.” Although thousands of people journal, little has been published on its effectiveness in helping people deal with cancer. Many people say it helps them to be focused, to order their day, to cope with stress, to provide a benchmark as to where they have been and where they are going, and to provide an unedited report of their feelings.

Writing your daily reactions to your cancer experience can provide an opportunity for understanding these situations on a deeper and more personal level. You may be hesitant to describe these feelings to others either because you lack the words to convey the depth of your observations, or because you are embarrassed to speak openly. Written dialogue provides an opportunity to tap a deeper wisdom that typically is not accessed through the spoken word.

Journaling can take whatever form you wish. You don’t have to write your whole life story. It can be fun! It can be composed on colored paper, a word processor, a tape recorder, or even a videotape. It may include drawings, doodles, and scribbles with different types of markers or colored pencils. It may be written in prose or poetry, or just randomized thoughts. It may be formally kept on a daily basis or written sporadically. Whatever form it takes, keep it in a secure place so that you know it will be kept confidential. Concerns that it will be shared with others may alter the flow of information. Worrying about what someone thinks or will say about your journal entries defeats the whole purpose of journaling.

To get started, here are some ideas for creative journaling that you might want to try…

  1. Take a piece of colored paper and your favorite coloring tool. Close your eyes and visualize your immune system working throughout your whole body. Sketch and color what you see. Think of the blood pumping in your veins. Try to draw what’s happening.
  2. What color is your pain? You might want to try to draw your pain. How does it change over time? Where does it go?
  3. Take another piece of paper and your favorite coloring tool. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Imagine you are a surfer and you are surfing on the big wave of your breath, as it carries you down into your body. Take a few more deep breaths, and follow the surfer down, down, down. Where is the surfer going? Listen to your body and follow the surfer. Where does the surfer end up? What colors and shapes do you see? What does the surfer see? What is your body trying to show you? Sketch and color what you see.
  4. Bring a piece of paper and a pen to the table. Close your eyes, and think about your recent day, week, or month. Have you noticed something you have not paid attention to before? What is it? What would you like to do with this observation? Draw a picture of how you would feel if resolved in the way you would like it to. Make a list of things you can do about the situation.
  5. Think about what your life might be like if you could create a world where you could have everything you want… without any barriers of any kind. What would this world look like? Would it be all good? Write down all the details. Which of these can you make happen today?
  6. What inspires you? Write about why you are inspired, and how it has changed your life.
  7. How do you feel when you are well? Draw that happiness.
  8. Health journaling can include listing the health goals you would like to focus on attaining, a record of how you feel each day, or a summary of the things you were able or not able to do each day.